I sit cross-legged, hands held together like a little bowl with the tips of my thumbs pressed lightly together, a technique I learned from observing the Buddhist monks in Thailand. My back is as straight as I can make it, but I keep my shoulders loose. Neck neutral, a slight bend downward to take pressure off of the spot where my spine meets the base of my skull. I loosen my jaw and make sure to relax my tongue so it doesn’t cling to the roof of my mouth. Eyes closed, I try to breathe without affecting any particular depth or volume. Sometimes I let out an an om or two to feel the vibration in my body.
I breathe as I have done countless times before. Active thought isn’t required here, but I can choose to be mindful about what my body is doing all on its own, to notice and pay attention to a subconscious, natural process. This attention to something so innate and so beyond my control, something I do even while I sleep, can be so grounding. It brings me into the present moment, even if only momentarily. Sometimes, it is so easy to hold that space where the present moment is the only one that matters. Most often, however, thoughts flow easily to past and future. When this happens, as it inevitably will, I try only to acknowledge it as thinking, without judgement of the thought or of me having had it, and simply let it go. I try as hard as I can not to analyze it, hold onto it, or remember it. Often, it doesn’t work, but the effort is comforting. I practice not grasping onto my thoughts. Always, I return to the breath.
This is the same way I learned to meditate from reading Pema Chodron’s books all those years ago. It is the same way I meditated on the tile floor of my little house by the lime orchard in Thailand, frogs croaking in the damp night, and much the same way I meditated during those early days of practice more than six years ago when chaos and confusion were the only constant forces in my life. I have sat in meditation in so many places and so many times, but they are all connected. Each of those moments in time is the same moment. Each of those places is the same place.
It feels so incredibly human. It feels wholly spiritual, in a way that completely lacks pretension, belief, or magic. It feels like coming home to myself.
Inhale. Drawing in.
Holding. A moment of transition.
Exhale. Letting go.
Another transition. Emptiness. Loss. Relaxation.
This cycle continues forever. When we hold in at the top or dwell on the bottom transition we create an imbalance. We hold our breath or we refuse to draw another one. When we hold things without letting them go we cannot draw a full breath, we cannot draw in as much. By refusing to let go we are making it harder to draw in as much as we otherwise could. We make it harder to create the space we need to let people in. We must also grieve, experience the loss of what we have let go, cultivate acceptance, and find joy in the emptiness, the tranquility, or the absence of a thing.
We can find ourselves with ourselves and savor it. We can know that we are loved. We can know that our struggle is not ours alone, that the present is the only place that matters, and that each of those moments that came before and that will come after are there in that infinite present moment as well.
It feels almost divine. What an incredible privilege it is to share something in which every human has shared.
What an incredible blessing it is to breathe.